Monday, June 26, 2017

Leave it to Cleaver - An Interview and Review

I'm always happy to have Victoria Hamilton visit the blog. Among other series, Victoria writes the Vintage Kitchen Mysteries. Leave it to Cleaver, the sixth book in this series, was just released this past Friday.

Kathy: Leave it to Cleaver is different from the other Vintage Kitchen Mysteries as the storyline shifts from the present, to events in the past. Was it difficult to piece the two stories together?

VH: Actually it felt kind of organic. I normally force myself to plan books out, but this one flowed from day 1. I knew a few things going in: I wanted bits from several viewpoints in the past, and I wanted to convey information about the crimes, but I wanted to give a glimpse into Becca and her friends’ past, too. So I interspersed them a little unevenly, only when I really felt a piece of the past resonated. I did have to stay aware, though, of the flashback parts of the past that Jaymie (in the present) did not know about, as compared to bits that contained pieces from Valetta’s diary, which Jaymie is reading in the present. I asked my editor ahead of time to keep his eye out for any information that Jaymie could NOT have because it came from the sections of the past she had no access to.

Kathy: Although no stranger to writing historical fiction, and the 1980s isn't that long ago (I cringe calling it historical) what are the challenges in writing from a different time period?

A2 – Since I lived through the time (!!) there were only a few things I had to research to be sure I wasn’t introducing inappropriate lingo into Becca and her friends’ lexicon. I checked a few movie and music references, that kind of thing. Other than that, I was good to go!

Kathy: Was there a specific inspiration for Leave it to Cleaver

VH: There were a few. I’ve known for a long time that I was going to do a Vintage Kitchen Mystery surrounding what happened in the past to a friend of Becca’s. It was just always there, in the back of my mind. Then a friend told me a random story, something about identical hand knit sweaters. It morphed in my brain into a story about a woman who knits identical sweaters for all of her son’s girlfriends. And from there, add a little alchemy, and it turned out great, I think. Leave It to Cleaver is my favorite mystery that I’ve written so far!

Kathy: Part of the book dealt with the preparation for a dual wedding. Have you ever been involved in such a wedding? Do you enjoy weddings? 

VH: In short, no, I don’t really enjoy weddings. I know some people do, but as a woman who never married and never really wanted to marry, I’m distinctly ‘meh’ about weddings. But… I do love seeing people happy, and I want the best for them, so I enjoy that aspect of weddings, the happiness it foretells. Never attended a dual wedding, though.

Kathy: I was thinking about that special yarn. Was it a real thing? 

VH: It sure is real, or was, anyway. Phentex was a part of my life, growing up. Every single Canadian woman at some time or another crocheted Phentex slippers. I’m not talking about the nice worsted yarn labeled Phentex; not the same thing at all. Phentex as a yarn was virtually indestructible, and it had this weird texture and an odd, iconic smell. It was made from olefin, an element used to make marine rope, even, because it lasts so long in the water. Heh-heh… yes, that’s why it is in Leave It to Cleaver!! And also, the Canadian connection. 

Short story: when I was a kid I had this lovely aunt, such a sweetie! Anyway, she took ages and ages to crochet my sister and me these skirt and vest sets in white and purple – you guessed it – Phentex. They were awful, a weird combination of ugly and uncomfortable. But… she took so much time and was so proud of her effort; what can you do?

Kathy: Are you able to share any future plans for Jaymie? 

VH: The next one, No Grater Danger, will really show Jaymie coming into her own as a new wife and stepmom to Jocie, but will also cover the pitfalls of newlywed life, especially for someone in her thirties who is used to living alone! And murder, of course… always murder!

Kathy: Will you share any other upcoming books?

VH: I’m really happy that I have just signed a new contract for Books #7 – 9 of the Vintage Kitchen Mysteries! No Grater Danger, as I’ve said, will be the next book. After that, I have a few title options, and sometime titles help form the plot! For example, No Grater Danger will feature a collector of nutmeg graters, highly collectible and enormously valuable. I saw an antique Georgian silver nutmeg grater listed for about five thousand dollars! It led me to think about how portable and stealable they would be, and voila, I had the beginning of a plot!



LEAVE IT TO CLEAVER by Victoria Hamilton
The Sixth Vintage Kitchen Mystery

Wedding bells are in the air, but it is alarm bells that ring out amidst all the preparations. First Jaymie Leighton and her sister, Becca, find a body in a house they're cleaning and then another is found submerged in a car in the river. The bodies are those of two girls, classmates of Becca, who disappeared on the same day in 1984. At the time it was thought that the girls had each run away, but now it looks like murder. Prompted by the chief of police, as well as her own curiosity, Jaymie starts investigating these cold cases. Although she was a baby at the time, her sister and friends were contemporaries of the girls. Will any of them be able to share some insight into what happened? Is the killer long dead? Or is the killer still in their midst?

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. This saying fits LEAVE IT TO CLEAVER perfectly. An old missing persons case (two actually) leads to a new investigation. There are borrowed diaries and the blue of the water! To top it all off, Jaymie's investigating all works around her and her sister's dual wedding!

While LEAVE IT TO CLEAVER is the "wedding book", it isn't overly sentimental. The relationships, both between Jaymie and Jakob and Becca and Kevin, aren't gushingly romantic and sugary sweet. These are adult relationships and are more real and honest, therefore more meaningful. 

Victoria Hamilton delves into Becca's past in this latest installment of the Vintage Kitchen Mystery series. The story switches from the present to the days before the girls went missing in 1984. We get a better idea of Becca's teen years and see why she mothers Jaymie so much. We also get to see the deepening relationship between Jaymie and Jakob as well as with his daughter, Jocie. Indeed the whole story revolves around the differing relationships between parents and children as well as those between siblings.

LEAVE IT TO CLEAVER is a great addition to the Vintage Kitchen Mysteries. A well plotted mystery through two time periods provides great backstory and develops the characters even more.

Recipes Included.

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